In case you're wondering, the three players I'm most looking forward to seeing at Sunday's Futures Game are Cubs shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, Braves righthander Julio Teheran and Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Now, before my terrible DSL connection dies again, let's answer some of your questions.
Posey and Bumgarner were clearly the Giants' two best prospects entering the season, and quite frankly, none of the minor leaguers we ranked behind them have jumped up to seize the No. 1 spot. Youngsters such as righthander Zack Wheeler and catcher Tommy Joseph have been slow to adjust to low Class A, and Wheeler hasn't pitched since mid-May with a cracked nail on his right middle finger. Outfielders Thomas Neal and Roger Kieschnick and shortstop Brandon Crawford have found Double-A much less hospitable than the hitter-friendly high Class A California League was a year ago.
First baseman Brandon Belt (.386/.493/.635) and righthander Jorge Bucardo (8-3, 2.23, 82-26 K-BB in 93 IP) are having the best seasons among San Francisco minor leaguers, but neither cracked our Giants Top 30 Prospects list in the 2010 Prospect Handbook. I'd still take Wheeler, who ranked No. 3 on that list, over anyone in the Giants system, even after the eventual signing of Cal State Fullerton outfielder Gary Brown, the club's first-round pick in the 2010 draft. Wheeler is just 20 and has a chance to have three plus pitches down the road.
We ranked the Giants system fourth overall in our preseason organization talent rankings , but the graduations of Posey and Bumgarner and the leveling off of several other prospects will drop San Francisco several spots when we update that list in the offseason. The Giants should rank around 20th or so.
It has been a good year for pitchers in the Yankees system. Seven-figure bonus babies Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances are showing signs of life, and the pitchers whom Dick mentions have taken impressive steps forward. Of that latter group, Stoneburner is the best prospect and has the best chance of cracking our offseason Top 10.
A 14th-rounder out of Clemson a year ago, Stoneburner signed for $675,000. His 92-95 mph fastball has been no surprise because he always has shown arm strength, but he has done a nice job of tightening his slider and repeating his delivery.
The other pitchers are prospects but probably not Top 10 guys. Noesi is having a tremendous year, going 11-3, 2.21 with a 104-17 K-BB ratio in 102 innings between high Class A and Double-A, but his numbers are better than his pure stuff. He doesn't have a true plus pitch, though he mixes four offerings and commands them well.
Hall, who's all finesse, and Phelps, who relies mainly on a 92-95 mph fastball, project as relievers in the major leagues. With better stuff than Hall and a deeper repertoire than Phelps, Warren has a more realistic chance to become a big league starter, but I think he'll wind up as a middle reliever.
Most of the time, the Helium Watch section spotlights a lesser prospect who had a strong week, such as a lower-round draft pick making a name for himself (Rays righthander Joe Cruz in our June 25 edition) or an older player beating up on younger competition (Cardinals outfielder Adron Chambers a week earlier).
Of the 12 players who have been featured in Helium Watch this year, the one with the best chance to appear in next year's Top 100 is Phillies first baseman Jonathan Singleton, who's hitting .345/.431/.608 as an 18-year-old in low Class A. A so-so high school senior season dropped Singleton to the eighth round of the 2009 draft, and he looks like a steal. That said, first basemen usually don't make the Top 100 on the basis of a strong year in low Class A.
After Singleton, the next-best prospects mentioned in Helium Watch are Rangers lefthander Robbie Erlin and Yankees righthander Jose Ramirez. Neither figures to make the Top 100, however.